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Topic: Welcome!
Monica Manzolillo
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Welcome!
on: March 11, 2019, 17:39

Hello everybody and welcome to our forum! 😀


This week we are going to start reading a very interesting short-story by Joseph Conrad whose title is “The Tale”. Here is a link where you can download it:


http://www.online-literature.com/conrad/3127/


All you have to do for now is just reading it and give your first impressions. Did you like it or not? Why/why not? What are the major themes which are presented in your opinion? In which way do you think that this short-story is related to the general topic of your English Literature IV course?


Just give your personal reactions so that we can start brainstorming about the text before analyzing it in depth.


PS: If you have time, please don’t forget to fill in the entry questionnaire in the website home page 🙂


GerrySalvati
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Re: Welcome!
on: March 12, 2019, 08:56

Hi guys, Monica and I are very happy to welcome you. As you can see, you are required to read The Tale and give us your first impressions. Here some friendly tips for you:

1) List down preliminary information about the story. Before you begin to read, consider the title of the book and what you think it conveys.

2) Read the short story carefully. As you read, make notes about your impressions on the content, style etc.

3) Once you finish reading, give yourself some time to assimilate, so that you can think about the story in perspective.

4) Have fun!


GerrySalvati
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Re: Welcome!
on: March 15, 2019, 10:59

Here again. Did you like The Tale? Was the plot too intricate? Have you had the feeling the story was pointing to nowhere?


Sara Pallante
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Re: Welcome!
on: March 15, 2019, 18:06

I really liked The Tale and I also found it really interesting because I think there may be different ways to interpret it. What struck me the most was its mysterious atmosphere and the fact that I was never completely sure of what was happening. This ambiguity led me to different thoughts, some of them were confirmed throughout the reading, although never in a definite way, others weren't. For example, in the initial dialogue between the woman and the man, there are interesting references to the concept of "duty". The woman says she doesn't like it but, on the contrary, he says "It contains an infinity of absolution". I think this was a hint to make us understand that the man is somehow guilty of something and he's trying to find some sort of relief by doing his duty. Another interpretation could be that he's trying to convince himself that he's not guilty because what he did was part of his duty. But when we find, at the end of his tale, that he was the one who sent the men on the ship to die even though they could be innocents, we realise that probably that dilemma, that doubt will never leave him. Also, there are two elements that made me think of his tale as a sort of psychoanalysis session. These elements are the couch and the chair but, curiously, the roles are inverted because the woman is the one on the couch that asks him to tell her a story, while he's the one on the chair. So maybe his "tale" can also be considered a confession or a sort of talking cure to express his guilt and his doubts and find some relief but we don't know if it actually worked because at the end he just leaves the room after saying "I shall never know."


Virginia Vicidomini
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Re: Welcome!
on: March 15, 2019, 18:10

The first time that I have read this short story I thought that the narrative rhythm was quite slow but little by little it changed and as I finished to read it, I realized that I liked it and the way it is written. I reckon that the main theme could be how the war can be an issue for the soldiers and men sent to fight and experience the crudelity, the pain and the death that the war brings. The main characters are a couple. The man has a five day leave and obviously he wanted to spend this time with his girlfriend but in order to entertain her he decided to tell a tale. When I read the title, I didn't imagine this kind of story, but I think it is quite peculiar that the man chose to tell a truth, what he did in the past during the war through a tale, that is a work of fiction. Maybe using this kind of device everything can have another meaning and the author can use it to express fully his own ideas. Also I think that probably the way in which the war influences men, changes  soldiers and how they can not readapt to their old life could be a theme. After telling the tale, the man exposes himself by revealing that he was the one who gave the wrong directions to the Northmanand he was quite troubled by whether it was a murder or not. After stating the truth, it seemed that he couldn't accept it or stand it, so he went out, he ran away from it and away from his woman that in a way maybe reminds him of his sins.


Monica Manzolillo
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Re: Welcome!
on: March 15, 2019, 19:45

Dear Sara and Virginia;

thank you so much for your comments! I absolutely agree with Sara when she says that the atmosphere of the tale is very mysterious. I also found very interesting her interpretation of the tale as a "confession" or a "talking cure" also (maybe) in psychoanalytical terms. Virginia concentrates more on the relationship between the two characters: the man and the woman. This is certainly a central point in the short-story since their relationship isn't clear. For this reason I would like to ask Virginia: how can you say that the woman is the man's "girlfriend"? I mean, I also have this sensation but is there any textual evidence for this? Can you quote from the text to support your view?

Of course I would also like to know if the other students too had this impression while reading the tale for the first time. I mean that the two main characters have some sort of love or intimate relationship.

But most importantly I look forward to read the other student's comments and suggestions. So please, don't be shy and join the discussion. This short-story is full of interesting elements to look at. Let us know your first impressions!

🙂


mariangela auri
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Re: Welcome!
on: March 15, 2019, 20:14

Hi everyone,

I have not read this poem before and I was very impressed with it. The story begins in an almost dark room with a man and a woman, who are immersed in a profound silence. Suddenly, ( I liked this expression very much) " As usual, it was the woman who had the courage " – she asks the man to tell a story. The woman has a provocative character, and insistently asks for a tale of another world. This made me ask questions about their contemporary world. Is it a kind of escaping from their real lives? Because it happens that we sometimes create other realities to get free from something bad.

However, the man makes up a story, in which there is a mysterious commanding officer , who has the duty of looking out for enemy craft. While in the sea, they encounter a thick fog and he must stop the ship. When they notice another ship in the cove, that has not made any signs of presence, the mystery increases. The commander is suspicious and decides to go on board. Here there is a Northman, who speaks in a strangely quiet way.

The final part was for me totally unexpected.

While reading and following the conversation between the two men, I expected some kind of answer, I thought that the commander did discover if the Northman was actually saying the truth or not. He will never know, as we wiil not , because without being sure, he orders the Northman to leave and gives him a route which is "straight on a deadly ledge of rocks ". The sea tale left me confused. The only answer is in the dark room, when we understand he is talking of a personal experience, and actually this doubt will never leave the protagonist too.


Virginia Vicidomini
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v.vicidomini8@studenti.unisa.it'
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Re: Welcome!
on: March 16, 2019, 08:46

Dear Prof. Manzolillo,

that is an interesting question because by reading the short-story I was quite sure that they were a couple, I got this kind of sensation from the beginning. However, I can say that I was led to this idea by the description of the room and the atmosphere around the two characters described at the beginning of the text. Then, the text suggests a sort of intimacy between the two when the author wrote "He could see only the faint oval of her upturned face and, extended in her black dress, her pale hands, a moment before abondoned to his kisses…", indeed, the way in which it is written it doesn't sound like a normal way of greeting to me. Also, when the woman asked the man to tell a tale, her way of speaking is described as a" hint of a loved woman's capricious will", and by reading this I thought how a boyfriend usually tend to realize every desire of his lover. Moreover, what shaped the belief that the two were actually a couple are also the sentences "You used to tell your simple and professional tales very well at one time. Or well enough to interest me", as if by telling stories the main aim of the men was to catch the attention of this woman, and then the man stated "Always. And since I could find in the universe only what was deeply rooted in the fibres of my being there was love in it, too" and by this I was sure that the two characters were together. I mean, this little pieces gave me this feeling, but maybe I am wrong. However, I reckon that Sara's idea of the tale as a "talking cure" with inverted roles is an interesting interpretation.


Mariagrazia Poppiti
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Re: Welcome!
on: March 16, 2019, 10:40

What struck me at the beginning of the story is the insistence on words that stress an atmosphere pervaded by darkness both outside and inside the room the crepuscular light was dying out slowly , framed rigidly in the gathering shades of the room, shadowy couch holding the shadowy suggestion of a reclining woman , and sombre all over except for .

In this shadowy room a man and a woman are present in a situation of intimacy even though it is not clear for me the nature of their relationship. It is also very surprising that the woman suddenly asks the man to tell her a story, even the man seems to be surprised at her request. The darkness hid his surprise and then his smile. Also the sea where the tale is set is shadowed by a thick fog.

The darkness of the setting seems to parallel a shadowy interior condition, maybe caused by a sense of guilt. This is the reason why I completely agree with Sara when she says that made me think of his tale as a sort of psychoanalysis session.

As often in Conrad the individual consciousness is at the centre of a situation in which a man is confronted by a sense of evil against virtues like honesty and pity and by the conflict between personal feelings and personal duties.


Pasquale Esposito
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Re: Welcome!
on: March 16, 2019, 14:44

In my opinion the general atmosphere created by the narration can lead the reader to create a large number of metaphorical connections and associations with other elements, many of them can be related to the historical scenario. What comes suddenly into my mind while reading "The Tale" is the story of the famous British ship "Lusitania" which had been sailing the route Liverpool-New York City for several years during the First World War. Historical facts tells that the ship was torpedoed by German U-Bot on 7 May, 1915. The ship sinked in few minutes and 1198 persons passed away, 761 survived to the attack.

The ship was known to be one of the largest means of transport for passengers who wanted to cross the Ocean and sailed from Europe to United States and vice versa. It is believed that during the last crossing the ship was also bringing on board materials for the fabrication of weapons as the itemized list showed later.

Many elements of The Tale can be linked to the Lusitania story like the presence of the fog beacuse the Captain Turner was forced to decrease speed while entering the Queenstown port where later the ship was hit by a topedo.

'The parties are miles away; the submarine, devil only knows where, readyto kill; and the noble neutral slipping away to the eastward, ready to lie!'

The 'parties' can be associated with to the Juno, the cruiser which should have given protection to the Lusitania in the war-zone sea from the enemy's attacks. I think more connections between The tale and the Lusitania tragedy can be drawn. I will look for more details related to historical events.


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